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Back to school: Ready to learn

Eight young Rosemount students will be better prepared for their first day of kindergarten next week thanks to the efforts of two longtime District 196 teachers.

Judy Good spent 16 years teaching in District 196 and more in another district. Elvi Frisbee was in ISD 196 for 27 years. Both have retired, but neither is anywhere near done teaching. Last week they launched the first session of a program they call Ready for Kindgergarten. It's designed to help students who for one reason or another do not have access to pre-school education. The program, held at the Rosemount Family Resource Center, is funded in part by the Community Action Council and in part from Good's and Frisbee's own pockets.

Ready for Kindergarten grew out of a homework help program Good and Frisbee ran for older students last year at the resource center.

"We noticed the younger ones always wanted to come even though they didn't have homework to do, so we developed some programs for the younger ones to do." Frisbee said. "We saw the need for the little ones, especially the ones who would be going on to kindergarten this fall who had no previous pre-school experience."

Good and Frisbee both taught at the elementary level and both believe it is increasingly important for students to have at least some exposure to numbers, letters and shapes and even to the concept of sitting down for hours at a time to learn before they head off to school.

"When I saw these kids not even know how to walk in and say 'Good morning' and see that that grown up person there had some control over their lives for the next four hours, we knew something had to be done so these kids didn't just fail," Good said. "The gap is getting larger between kids who have had pre-school and nursery school and kids who have not had that advantage."

Thanks to growing class sizes it's hard for students who start their kindergarten year behind their classmates to catch up.

"Imagine if you started out in school thinking, 'I don't get it. I'm dumb,'" Frisbee said.

Most of the kids who signed up for Ready for Kindergarten qualify for district-run programs like Head Start but with transportation for those programs cut from the budget they don't have any way to get to the classes. All of the Ready for Kindergarten students live in the neighborhoods around the Family Resource Center.

Good and Frisbee put together their curriculum based on their own experience and on similar programs. There are lessons on letters and numbers. There's guided playtime and craft time. There are songs to sing and books to read. It's a lot to squeeze into eight days, and Good and Frisbee said they'd like to add more classes when they bring the program back next year.

There is also a lot of running after students.

"It's exhausting," Good said. "It's funny because we did it for so long and we had that energy and now it's gone."

Still, it's clear Good and Frisbee enjoy the work they're doing. They like seeing the kids learn. Seeing them get better at pointing to the right letter while they sing the alphabet song.

"We love kids. We're passionate about education. We see the need and we want to meet the need," Good said.

"Seeing the kids learning -- it's a kick," Frisbee said. "It's a joy."